Slip and fall accidents happen. Under our fault-based system, parties who were negligent leading up to your slip and fall accident, meaning they breached a duty, may be held legally responsible for your damages. However, that also means that if your negligence contributed to your slip and fall accident, you are liable for your medical bills and other losses– in proportion to your degree of fault.
There is no crystal ball that determines who was most at fault for an injury. Instead, the presentation of evidence and arguments by a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can make a significant impact. They can work with how a factfinder in a trial, a judge or jury, and in an insurance settlement, the claims adjuster, will interpret the division of fault.
How you could be at fault for your slip and fall
As you go about your day, you have a general duty to be careful and take reasonable precautions to protect yourself. If you file a slip and fall lawsuit, it should not be surprising if the defendant, usually the property owner, alleges that you were distracted, not legally on the premises, or even taking uneccessary risks.
The defendant will have a strong motivation to make this argument. If successful, it will reduce their legal responsibility for your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.
Comparative fault law in California
California is one of many states that follow what is known as a comparative fault, or comparative negligence law. This allows an injured person to claim damages even when they bear some of the blame. It is a major change from the earlier law of contributory negligence– where a plaintiff who contributed at all to their own injury– was barred from pursuing a claim.
How fault affects compensation in a personal injury lawsuit
When a judge or jury decides a personal injury case, they decide how much each party’s negligence contributed to the accident. The total damages are then apportioned according to that finding. For example, if the total damages are $50,000, and the defendant was 60% at fault while the plaintiff bore 40% of the blame, then the plaintiff could recover $30,000.
In California, a plaintiff can even recover if they bear most of the blame. In theory, even if you are 99% responsible for an accident and the defendant is only 1% at fault, you are permitted to sue to recover that 1%. However, doing so is not necessarily practical. Always speak with a lawyer to determine what choices would make the most sense in your situation.
How a California jury determines comparative fault
A judge may make an apportionment of fault in a bench trial, but if it is a jury trial, the jury makes that call. When the latter hears a personal injury trial, it receives instructions on legal issues that state what they must consider based on the law.
The judge will deliver a jury instruction similar to the following:
“The defendant claims that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to their harm. To succeed on this claim, the defendant must prove both of the following:
1. That the plaintiff was negligent; and
2. That the plaintiff’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing their harm.
If the defendant proves the above, the plaintiff’s damages are reduced by your determination of the percentage of the plaintiff’s responsibility. I will calculate the actual reduction.”
In addition, the judge may give the jury additional instructions to determine the fault of others who are not a party to the lawsuit. In that case, the jury would be asked to break down the fault of everyone who contributed to the plaintiff’s injury, with the percentages totaling 100%.
Contact us at Salamati Law today
If you have been injured due to someone else’s fault, do not wait to speak with a Los Angeles slip and fall lawyer from our firm. Even if your own actions may have contributed to the accident, you are still entitled to pursue a claim against those others at fault. Call today for a confidential consultation.